Free speech is under attack.
And regardless of whether our position is with someone recently banned from social media platforms, the argument is not about that individual. It is about each of us, and not only whether we will be silenced as well but what will be kept from us.
We’re not for inciting violence, and we’re not for spreading false information. As a reminder of the prime example, free speech has never given anyone the unpunishable ability to walk into a crowded theater and yell “Fire!”
We’ve said it here before — opinions are like noses, everybody has one, and the difference in the 21st century is everyone can have a megaphone under it to let the world hear their voice.
Yet freedom of speech remains beautiful. The Founders believed this right to be inherent and essential to man’s pursuit of happiness; in fact, it was two years ahead of the Declaration of Independence in John Dickinson’s Declarations of Resolves.
We hear paid professionals in television, radio and other media forms speaking about the nation’s political divide. And “getting through it.” The incoming administration is preaching about a time for healing.
The hard truth is the divide has existed for as long as we’ve had the political parties and isn’t going away. And the healing talk is hypocritical to the most recent four years of strategy to remove an administration, never mind the eight “birth certificate” years prior to that.
Spare us. And give us debate on real issues. That’s what strengthens our democracy. Using critical thinking and reasoned argument, we can have dialogue that constructively advances any topic.
If the words we hear don’t match ours, the remedy isn’t censorship. It’s more speech, more dialogue.
But lest the shouting. And not rallying people to violence and destruction of property, whether it’s the Capitol in Washington or the downtown businesses in North Carolina’s major cities.
It needs to be something substantive and delivered respectfully. We need the discourse, and not just when there are elections or movements for social justice.
A couple of years ago, we shared the words of Elon University’s president. They’re worth a listen again today.
Dr. Connie Book writes, “Learning to ride a bicycle is not intuitive. Nor is knowing how to conduct a civil dialogue. While a broadly educated student can become familiar with the ideas and theories driving differences in points of view, the practice of exchanging those ideas with each other is a set of skills that can and should be taught.”
Her writing was not only to champion her school’s contribution to that end, but all of higher education. Many among us could use a course.
Book shared optimism for students to be “passionate, zealous and fierce about sharing ideas in hopes of making a difference in the world.”
The people shouting have that goal, too. We may have opinion on their tactics in addition to the agenda they push, but rest assured they believe they’re trying to make a difference.
Passion isn’t measured in volume or destruction. And a better situation won’t come from censorship.
We have to be better than who we are today.